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Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC start busy April against each other

Between April 1 and the end of the 10th I-League on April 25-26, Mohun Bagan will play eight matches, one more than Bengaluru FC. That includes two games in the AFC Cup where both clubs are in the same group

football Updated: Mar 31, 2017 19:16 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mohun Bagan,Bengaluru FC,I-League
Being one of the main contenders for the I-League title, Mohun Bagan will need to negotiate a hectic season run-in.(Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

After a 16-day break, Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC meet in the 10th I-League here on Saturday. It will begin a sequence of matches that both teams hope won’t make them feel how cruel April can be.

Between April 1 and the end of the 10th I-League on April 25-26, Mohun Bagan will play eight matches, one more than Bengaluru FC. That includes two games in the AFC Cup where they are in the same group.

What makes the fixture congestion more difficult for Mohun Bagan is that they are in contention for the I-League and the AFC Cup.

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And left-side midfielder Sony Norde, who Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca said can make a lot of difference, reached the city early on Friday after Haiti lost 0-3 to Nicaragua in a CONCACAF qualifier. “He will be in the 18,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen.

Asked about games in quick succession --- Mohun Bagan play six games between April 1 and 19 including successive rounds in Shillong and Ludhiana --- Sen said the players have had a long break and that he would like to take one match at a time.

Since trying to retain the I-League is almost mission impossible, Bengaluru FC can focus on bettering being runners-up in the AFC Cup. To that end, their coach Albert Roca hinted at resting some players with an eye on an away trip to Maldives on April 4.

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In the I-League, Bengaluru FC are fifth with 18 points from 13 rounds, five less than third-placed Mohun Bagan, who have a match in hand.

“Thank you for rubbing it in,” said striker Sunil Chhetri when asked whether being out of contention for the I-League helps Bengaluru FC.

“But the brain doesn’t work like that. Even though our chances of winning the league are, say 1%, you still don’t want to give up a game. It will be tough for the players who travelled from Myanmar, but trust me, Mohun Bagan will not have it easy,” he said.

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For Mohun Bagan, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pritam Kotal and Anas Edathodika played full time in the 1-0 win away to Myanmar in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

Bengaluru FC’s Sandesh Jhingan, Eugenson Lyngdoh and Chhetri played the entire game, while youngster Udanta Singh was brought in as a substitute in the 65th minute.

Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC have played once each in the I-League and the AFC Cup this season. Mohun Bagan gleaned a point away in the I-League on March 11 before losing in the AFC Cup three days later in Bengaluru.

Fixture pile-up for Mohun Bagan

I-League: April 1: Bengaluru FC (H), April 9: East Bengal (home in Siliguri), April 12: Lajong (A), April 15: Minerva (A), April 22: Aizawl FC (A), April 25/26: Chennai City FC (H).

AFC Cup: April 4: Abahani Limited Dhaka (H), April 19: Maziya (Maldives) (H), May 3: Maziya (A), May 17: Bengaluru FC (H), May 31: Abahani (A).

Fixture pile-up for Bengaluru FC

I-League: April 1: Mohun Bagan (A), April 9: Aizawl FC (H), April 15: Shillong Lajong (A), April 22: DSK (H), April 25/26: Churchill Brothers (H).

AFC Cup: April 4: Maziya (A), April 19: Abahani (H), May 3: Abahani (A), May 17: Mohun Bagan (A), May 31: Maziya (H).

Note: Both teams will also play the Federation Cup in Cuttack from May 7-21.

First Published: Mar 31, 2017 19:16 IST